BURLINGTON, Vt. – This week was a difficult one off the ice for the No. 5/6 Boston University men’s hockey team, but the Terriers put together a strong effort against the University of Vermont on the ice on Friday. Here’s a look at what went well and what didn’t go so well for BU.
What went well
Aside from junior forward Wade Megan, none of the players who scored on Friday entered the game with more than three goals this season. Junior defenseman Sean Escobedo scored his first and second, freshman forward Cason Hohmann had his second and senior forward Justin Courtnall picked up his fourth.
“The first two lines have been carrying us offensively for a long time here, and of late, Santana’s line has chipped in with goals, Gaudet and Cissé have played well, and then to have Hohmann and Justin Courtnall each get a goal for us was big too,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We’d like to have some more diversified scoring, that’s for sure.”
Hohmann beat Vermont goalie Rob Madore with a low wrist shot through a screen in the second period, and Courtnall momentarily broke out of his role as a physical, defensive forward with a quick set of dekes to fool Madore early in the third.
But it was Escobedo whose offensive performance was the most out of character, considering that he had one goal in the rest of his BU career before Friday. He joked about trying to catch up with sophomore blueliner Garrett Noonan, who has 11 goals on the year.
“I wanted to make sure that going into the last week I would have a chance,” Escobedo said when asked if he was trying to catch Noonan. “I think that if I get an eight-goal performance tomorrow night, I can make it a pretty good competition and take it home.”
Moving on from a tough week
Since Max Nicastro’s arrest on Sunday, the Terriers’ focus has been on a number of matters outside of hockey. But they put those concerns aside when they took the ice on Friday, staying focused against the only Hockey East team already eliminated from playoff contention and earning a decisive win.
One of the main hockey-related questions around the team before the game was whether BU would be prepared mentally, and they put that concern to rest with a solid first period followed by increasingly strong showings in the second and third.
Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera played his first game since suffering a broken wrist on Jan. 28 against the University of Maine. He was a plus-3 with one assist, on Escobedo’s second goal, and didn’t appear to be in pain while handling the puck.
Privitera also set up the play that led to Courtnall’s goal, laying a hit on a Vermont forward to knock him off the puck in the Terriers’ defensive zone and sending BU up-ice on the rush.
“I thought he played extremely well,” Parker said. “I thought he was smart with the puck and I thought he didn’t miss a beat. He looked like he was in pretty good shape and he didn’t miss a shift.”
What didn’t go well
First line didn’t convert
Although they had a number of quality scoring chances, especially in the first period, BU’s top line of Chiasson, Connolly and Nieto didn’t find the back of the net. This is the first game all season the Terriers have won without one of those players recording a point.
Of course, that’s more of a step forward for the Terriers than a negative. Parker has said several times in the last few weeks that the team is relying too heavily on the first line for offense, and being able to win on the strength of goals from third-line players and defensemen is crucial.
Power play went 1-for-9
The Terriers played a relatively disciplined game by their standards, only going to the box five times, but they went just 1-for-9 on the power play, and their only tally came after Vermont forward Anders Franzon took a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting Rodrigues from behind.
“They did a good job killing penalties,” Parker said. “Their goaltender played well at times, especially on the power plays.”
Although one of those power plays was a 5-on-3 that lasted almost two minutes and another was Franzon’s five-minute major, BU only took 10 shots on those nine power plays. Five of the man-advantages came in the third period, after the Terriers already had a comfortable lead and no pressing need to pepper Madore with shots, but even early on, they didn’t threaten offensively on the power play as much as they did at even strength.